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George B. Harris III Running Header:Sociology of Music Paper #1


Abstract For the first required paper for the Fall 2011 Sociology of Music class, I have chosen to address two specific items. first is the definition of music, in my own words.


I believe

that this is key to understanding the information presented in the class because it is the key to understanding how the concepts presented relate to this deeply personal topic.

I will

discuss my favorite style of music and why that choice was made. I will talk about the impact that music has had on my life and how I anticipate it to impact my life in the future.

For the

second item, I will discuss my impressions of the documentaries Amandla! and Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. I learned from them and how they affected me.

I will discuss what Finally based on

these films I will discuss how music affects society.

George B. Harris III Running Header: Sociology of Music Paper #1


Sociology of Music Paper #1 An Exploration of Music and its Impact on the World Around Me Music is something that has always played a huge role in my life.

From the time I was a little boy, I remember my family

gathering at my grandmothers house for special occasions. Within a few hours of everyone eating, drinking and catching up, a dynamic shift would occur.

Regardless of what was going on in

their lives, the elders in my family would all gather in the living room, kids in tow, and play the songs that would forever immortalize the good times and the bad times of their lives. This paper will explore music, as I see it, and talk about why certain kinds of music are important to me.

I will also talk

about why music plays such a key role in the documentaries Amandla! and Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. Before we delve into the “meat” of this paper, we have to get a baseline for what music actually means.


Dictionary defines music as “the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity”.

While this is a thorough definition, it lacks the

soul that music seems to convey. always been a part of my life.

As I stated before, music has My uncle performed in a band in

Baltimore, MD in the late 1980’s and at every family gathering

George B. Harris III Running Header: Sociology of Music Paper #1

we would sing for hours on end.


But as I grew and developed my

own sense of being, music started to connect with more than just my family.

Music was my way of communicating with my friends,

it was a way to get out what I was feeling.

I could use it say

the things that I did not have the nerve or the words to say. But how?


I believe that music is a living breathing thing.

Music is

created by man; an emotional, ever evolving, and complex entity. Music is a snapshot of emotion and a glimpse into a moment in time.

Although I will talk about this more in-depth later, it

is mentioned in the movie Amandla! that there are several freedom songs that where written for one reason and then repurposed at another point in time.

Music is the universal

medium through which all human experience and emotion can be communicated; regardless of language, sex, age, religion, background or value system.

This definition, although

completely personal, is backed by study conducted by Sara B. Kirkweg.

In the manuscript of her experiment, she states that

“Memory is a mental system that receives, stores, organized, alters and recovers information from sensory input (Coon, 1997). Research has shown memory to be affected by many different factors. One of these factors is music, which has been found to stimulate parts of the brain. Many studies have demonstrated

George B. Harris III Running Header: Sociology of Music Paper #1


that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer`s and dementia patients”. My “favorite” musics find their origins in the experiences of my life.

For example, shortly before I left for basic

training, my aunt Carrie died of a sudden heart attack.


last family gathering we had, my father recorded her singing “Baby Come to Me” by Regina Bell.

Prior to that, she and my

family had been arguing over something that, now, seems so very trivial.

On the average day, I have a hard time remembering

some details of my time with her and sadly, her face.


when I hear that song, I am instantly transported to that moment and I can see her as clearly as if she was sitting in front of me.

During my senior year of high school, the Cranberries “No

Need to Argue” album was the soundtrack to my world.

That album

conveyed all the emotion that I felt as a 17 year old involved in a shaky and frowned upon relationship.

More so, the album

and the group, have become near and dear to my heart because of the great time I had while listening to the album.

I remember

late nights driving around Loch Raven Reservoir in Baltimore with my girlfriend just wanting the night to continue because we did not want to be apart. In fact, all of my favorite music can be tied to key moments in my life. But more importantly, they become gateways to genres of music.

My time in Korea exposed me to groups like

George B. Harris III Running Header: Sociology of Music Paper #1

Goofy and Jinusean.


They in turn, led me to the K-pop genre

which is one of my favorites because it reminds me of the once in a lifetime experiences I had there.

On the same token,

Eryika Badu was my gateway to the Neo-Soul genre.

This genre

for me symbolizes where I am now in my life; spiritual, thoughtful and meaningful.

All of the music I have experienced

in my life has had a profound impact on the person I am; and the person I will evolve into.

These works of art help me to

categorize my experience and often are repurposed to help me make sense of the things that occur in my life today.


experiences are very similar to those discussed in the documentaries Amandla! and Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. Amandla!, is documentary chronicling the struggles of the native Africans during the Apartheid.

This 50 years of death

and strife gave birth to an entire genre of music for the region; Freedom Songs.

These songs were used not only as rally

cries, but also as ways to communicate messages when free speech was not allowed.

Many of the songs have been sung for more than

50 years; being passed from generation to generation. Personally, I found the movie to be quite touching, sad and empowering all at once.

For me, I found myself connecting to

the plight of the Africans.

Their songs are reminiscent of the

slave songs sung by American slaves. Although we have lost many of those songs to history, I can still relate in the many ways.

George B. Harris III Running Header: Sociology of Music Paper #1


For example, songs sung by my grandmother and mother have been passed down to my generation through family gatherings. these songs


do not communicate the things that the freedom

songs do, they do help me remember those times with my family. When I hear these songs, I can quickly recall specific events and the feeling of family and belonging.

As these songs define

my family to me, the freedom songs served to define the native Africans as a people. With the documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, I identified with the the people engrossed in this subculture in a completely different way.

For many of the metal fans, they

identify with the music because it speaks to them on a personal level.

One interviewee is quoted as saying “... it’s outsider

music and it’s outsider subjects. And as a kid was an outsider; I was the loner, and I think that’s sorta where it begins... It’s making you, like, the weird kid. Nobody wants to be the weird kid. You just somehow end up being the weird kid... And metal is sorta like that, except it’s sorta like all the weird kids in one place”.

Think back to when you were a teenager. How

often did you feel like you were the odd man out?

How many

times did you feel completely alone in a room full of people? know I have definitely felt that way. Like many of the metal heads in the movie, this is how I identify with music.

It not only ties moments in time to me,


George B. Harris III Running Header: Sociology of Music Paper #1


but it also ties everyone who has experienced the same thing to me; through music.

It provides balance when there is none, and

helps you express the things that you may or may no understand. Much of our musical identities are formed during adolescence, and I believe this is because this is a time of great uncertainty in all of us.

This documentary does a great job of

portraying metal fans as a community drawn together by the music and sharing common philosophies and values; the very basis of a culture. When taken separately, both films could be seen as mere documentaries.

However, when you tie the similarities in

message, and cultural/personal significance, you begin to see that these two films paint virtually the same picture of two geographically and demographically separate peoples.

This fact

is key in understanding how and why music is so important to society.

Be them good or bad, the associations we make between

music, life and the world around us shape our society.


paper has discussed my personal opinions and experiences with music and associated them with two documentaries.

The purpose

was to show that regardless of where you come from or what your experiences, you cannot experience life without music. I would even venture to say that you cannot be human without music.

George B. Harris III Running Header: Sociology of Music Paper #1


BIBLIOGRAPHY Dunn, S.; McFayden, S.; Feldman, S. (Producers), & Dunn, S.; Wise, J.J.; McFayden,S. (Directors). (2005). Metal: Headbanger’s Journey [Motion picture].


USA: Warner Home


Kirkweg, S.B. The Effects of Music on Memory. Retrieved from: 230.php

Music. 2011. In

Retrieved October 4,

2011, from http:// dictionary/music

Saarikallio, S.; Erkkila, The Role of Music in Adolescents’ Mood Regulation. Retrieved from:


Zillman, D.; Gan, S. (1997). Musical Taste in Adolescence. The Social Psychology of Music [Abstract]. The social psychology of music, (pp. 161-187). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press, xv, 319 pp.

Academic Paper - Sociology of Music  

Academic Paper - Sociology of Music